'Catastrophic failure' as Scottish Government's tenant hardship fund pays out 'shockingly low' amount

The Scottish Government have been accused of a “catastrophic failure” to protect tenants after it emerged just £550,000 has been paid out from a £10 million hardship fund.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, published on the government website, it has been revealed just 207 tenants have benefitted from the Tenant Hardship Loan Fund that was launched in December last year.

The fund was launched with £10m of funding offered interest-free loans to tenants who had fallen into rent arrears due to the pandemic.

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The Scottish Government's tenant hardship fund has paid out only £550k from £10m.

Tenants could apply for a loan to cover up to nine months worth of arrears and was open to those who were unable to claim other avenues of support such as welfare benefits.

However, the low uptake of the scheme was labelled as having “catastrophically failed” tenants by Scottish Labour, with the Scottish Conservatives saying it was “all too typical of the SNP”.

Miles Briggs, the Scottish Conservative’s housing spokesperson said: “They talked up this fund, but it is simply failing to deliver the necessary urgent support that tenants require.

“It is appalling that funds are being released at a snail’s pace and that hundreds of tenants have missed out altogether.

“The SNP must guarantee that this fund is designed to support our most vulnerable tenants. Otherwise they are running the risk of many people across Scotland being made homeless, which continues to be a stain on our society.”

Figures from the Scottish Government state that of the 1,009 applicants, applications from only 207 were approved at a value of £558,295.

This is an average loan of £2,697, officials said.

A further 110 applications were still being assessed as of August 3, with 159 private sector tenants and just 48 social rented sector tenants benefiting from the fund.

Just under half of all applicants to the fund (458 of 1,009) were rejected, with one in five (234) either withdrawing their application or it falling through.

Reacting to the figures, Labour’s housing spokesperson Mark Griffin said: “This is not good enough. Scotland’s tenants are in desperate need and the SNP’s loan fund has catastrophically failed them.

“That only one in five applicants have been supported is scandalous.

“Any spike in homelessness would be a national scandal for which the SNP would be directly accountable.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat’s housing spokesperson, Paul McGarry, said the Scottish Government should learn lessons from the figures.

He said: “These figures are shockingly low, and it is essential to understand the reason behind it, especially for the 234 withdrawn applications and 458 rejected or refused applications..

“Seeing only 207 approved applications in eight months does not necessarily mean that only those 207 applications were in need.

"These measures should be available to anyone who needs them. However, these low figures could suggest the process is so tedious people get caught in unnecessary bureaucracy.

“Everyone has the right to a safe place to call home. Unfortunately the pandemic made it even harder for some.

"The Scottish Government should look into this data and see why the figures are so low, and what they can actually do to protect and help those who need support.”

A Scottish Government Spokesperson said: “The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund is one part of £39m worth of support and a range of interventions we have put in place to help people who are struggling with rent because of changes to their finances caused by the pandemic.

“Affordability plays a key part in any responsible lending and a loan will not be an appropriate choice for everyone. All applicants to the loan fund are assessed individually by the administrators and given information on alternative or additional sources of support that they may be entitled to such as Universal Credit and Discretionary Housing Payments, neither of which have to be paid back.

“We also recently announced that we will establish a new £10m grant fund scheme in addition to the Loan Fund, aimed at helping tenants who have been financially impacted by the pandemic and are facing homelessness.

“We continue to make tenants aware of their rights and the range of financial help that is available to them”.

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